With their thoroughly modern disco sound — a blend of house, funk, electro and techno — this French duo were one of the biggest electronic music acts of the late 1990s and 2000s. Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter wore shiny droid costumes at every live show (and only allowed themselves to be photographed in said costumes) but their music was only sometimes robotic: Daft Punk were as influenced by rock bands like AC/DC as they were by classic disco acts.
De Homem-Christo and Bangalter met in a Paris school in 1987 and eventually formed an indie rock band, Darling. The group went nowhere, but a review of one of their songs in Britain’s Melody Maker gave the duo the name their next project: The reviewer called the song “a bunch of daft punk.” Even though neither had been to a dance club until 1992, Bangalter and de Homem-Christo fell in love with house music from both sides of the Atlantic, and the pair soon cooked up singles like intense “Da Funk,” which sold 30,000 copies and became a staple of the Chemical Brothers’ DJ sets.
After generating loads of press buzz and sparking a bidding war, Daft Punk signed to Virgin Records. In 1997 the pair released Homework, which seemed far less like the work of dance music purists than two guys who just wanted to get kids to go nuts on the dance floor. Helped by some innovative videos — including the Michel Gondry-directed clip for “Around the World” — Homework went gold in America. Between albums, Bangalter recorded both under his own name and as Stardust, who had an underground hit in the late Nineties with the ecstatic “Music Sounds Better with You.”
In 2001, Daft Punk returned with Discovery, a more poppy album that tossed in glammy r&b, big-ass house beats, shiny synths, found noise, sitars, and pop melodies from singers like Romanthony, whose exhortations powered “One More Time,” a Number One hit on the US Dance Play charts. The disappointing Human After All followed in 2004: Though it has some great moments (“The Prime of Your Life”) and riff-heavy rock (“Robot Rock”), it also has too many raw grooves that went nowhere.
Daft Punk toured throughout the 2000s, making a stop at the 2008 Grammys to perform with Kanye West (on “Stronger,” which sampled the duo’s “Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger”), and recording Alive 2007, which leans too much on recent work, but is still a lot of fun. Bangalter and de Homem Christo, who regularly played in front of a giant pyramid of lights, bring the intensity, especially on the closing medley of “Superheroes,” “Human After All” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
Daft Punk contributed eleven new mixes to the 2009 video game DJ Hero, which allowed users to play as Daft Punk, inhabiting the duo’s robot outfits. As of mid-2009, Daft Punk had reportedly recorded 24 songs for the score to the film Tron: Legacy, due out in 2011.